November 14, 2013; New York Times, “DealBook”
Here’s how a Twitter #hashtag works: By promoting the use of a word or phrase preceded by a pound-sign, you can encourage people paying attention to you on social media to address you directly in a way that’s easy for you to track. However, it’s important to remember that anyone who uses that hashtag becomes part of the conversation—whether they’re on your side or not.
That last part of the lesson was learned by JPMorgan Chase, who on Wednesday afternoon discovered the downside of global attention: Your faults and misdeeds become grist for the Twitter mill, especially those things you’d rather people not talk about.
Last week, through its @JPMorgan Twitter handle, the megabank made it known that a senior executive would be taking part in an online Q&A. (This would turn out to be vice president James B. Lee, Jr.) At around 1:00 pm yesterday, JPMorgan Chase encouraged their Twitter followers to consider what questions they’d ask and tweet them using the hashtag #AskJPM. According to the Times, “The target audience was students, with Mr. Lee expected to focus on career advice.”
However, once the tag was released into the wild, it was picked up by organizations like Occupy Wall Street and promoted. So instead of questions from earnest young people, the tag was overwhelmed with questions about JPMorgan Chase’s practices…
I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending AM I DIVERSIFIED? #AskJPM
— Downtown Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker) November 13, 2013
…the “London Whale” scandal…
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— Skeptical Economist (@SkepticalEcon) November 13, 2013
— OccupyHomesMN (@OccupyHomesMN) November 13, 2013
…as well as the wide variety of surreal and provocative trolling that a broad and unfiltered audience can produce. It took only five hours of this treatment before the scheduled Q&A was called off, although the #AskJPM hashtag is still being populated with tweets as of this morning.
According to the article, no one behind the @JPMorgan Twitter handle would lose their job over this “#BadIdea!” gaffe, and any repercussions or bad PR will likely be washed away in the tides of the Internet. However, for just a moment, the people at one of the planet’s largest financial institutions came face to face with the people most affected by their decisions and had to deal with what they had to say.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about what occurred here. —Jason Schneiderman